Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What makes for a good narrative?

Honestly, all I wanted was for someone to say that a story needs to have a point. But instead my students suggest that good dialogue makes a piece more interesting. Another student suggested dramatic irony. And, yeah, he knew what it meant. Stories that float around the office are a lot more likely to degrade students than to brag on them. But it was pretty cool to have such sophisticated suggestions. Being able to analyze literature doesn't mean they're good writers, but it might mean that they're good readers, which is halfway there. There's only so much I can do to help a student who's never read a book.


Chris Panza said...

Defining a narrative strikes me as the kind of quicksand that is similar to that of defining what a "game" is (or "philosophy") -- it just can't ever be done in a way that closes the book on the situation. That sounds banal and unsatisfying, but I'm sure it's true.

Which makes me think: The "Proteus" chapter of Joyce's Ulysses, one of my all time favorites, surely has no point whatsoever. It doesn't even have any (or much) dialogue. But it's one hell of a story.

Amy said...

I suppose I'm going to have to read that in order to believe that something can have no point and yet be good.

Certainly dialogue isn't a necessary component of a narrative, but most of my students will write more interesting non-fiction narratives if they include some dialogue. It forces them to not gloss over the details.